Book Details

The Fight To Save An Endangered Species

Thirteen Gold Monkeys is a story of hope, love, and unspeakable death in a disappearing Brazilian rainforest. A team of dogged conservationists tries to save a beautiful monkey species, the golden lion tamarin, from certain extinction by reinforcing their numbers with tamarins born in zoos. Will these immigrants learn to find enough to eat, find secure places to sleep, avoid predators, and survive attacks by wild tamarins? Will they find mates and make babies? The technique, known as reintroduction, is new, and the conservationists struggle to find the best method. Can they train the tamarins in zoos to meet the challenges of the wild? Once the monkeys are released in the forest, should the people give them food, shoo away predators, rescue them if they get lost, and treat them if they are injured? Or should they be hands-off, letting the monkeys fend for themselves and become wild as quickly as possible? Beck describes the reintroduction of the first 13 tamarins, capturing their fierce determination to survive, their loves and conflicts, their nurturant families, adorable babies, hidden language, sometimes comical attempts to solve the problems of adapting, and the agonizing deaths of those who don’t make it. He describes the power and beauty of the rainforest, and the loves, loyalties, conflicts, and sometimes hilarious bumbling by their human caretakers. Challenging their better-known bosses, two women, a zookeeper and a Brazilian field assistant, discover the right way to reintroduce the monkeys. But a well-known Rio citizen almost destroys the program in a callous act of vanity. The story is vivid and authentic; Beck was there and has studied animal thinking and monkey and ape conservation for more than 40 years. The book is a tribute to the approximately 160 golden lion tamarins who gave their lives to this program, and to the dedicated animal keepers, curators, veterinarians, nutritionists, behavioral ecologists, population managers, registrars, educators, volunteers, and directors who helped to breed golden lion tamarins in about 30 zoos and research institutions, get them ready for reintroduction, tell the story to the world, and provide financial support. Critics of zoos take note: this is a case where zoos walked the conservation talk. Several zoos continue to provide some funding for ongoing golden lion conservation in Brazil. For the moment, golden lion tamarins have avoided extinction. But the threats never go away. The area is now a suburb of Rio and is under constant pressure to be carved into housing developments, roads, oil pipelines, and shopping centers. The Americans who started the program in the 1980s have now founded a North American non-governmental organization, called Save the Golden Lion Tamarin (SGLT), to provide technical assistance and collect U.S. tax-deductible donations to support the program in perpetuity. More than 99% of donations and grants to SGLT are sent to Brazil to support the priority activities of the Associacão Mico Leão Dourado. SGLT also established the Devra G. Kleiman endowment fund, the interest from which will also be used to support AMLD work. Half of any profits from the sale of Thirteen Gold Monkeys will be contributed to the Kleiman fund. To learn more, and to contribute, see


About the Author

Benjamin Beck

For more than 40 years, Benjamin Beck has studied the ways that animals think, and worked to save monkeys and apes in the wild. He lives on the eastern shore of Maryland with his wife and colleague, Beate Rettberg-Beck, and their dog Heidi.